Pastor's reality food show pitch: Christians and Jews bonding over hot dogs
February 23rd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Pastor's reality food show pitch: Christians and Jews bonding over hot dogs

By Gabe LaMonica, CNN

It was the hot dogs that broke down religious barriers.

Megachurch pastor Phil Hotsenpiller and his wife, Tammy, invited their Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist neighbors over to their Southern California home for an interfaith, multicultural meal.

But not just any meal: This one was being filmed as a pilot for a reality TV show based on Tammy Hotsenpiller’s book, “Taste of Humanity" – which she described as an attempt to “bring cultures together through cuisine.”

“I had everyone bring something from their country,” Tammy Hotsenpiller recalled, “and I thought, ‘Well what is America known for? I mean, apple pie and hot dogs.’ So I brought apple pie and hot dogs. We did a hot dog bar with all the condiments and everything else."

Their neighbors hadn’t gotten together in 20 years.

“And the first thing [our guests] asked was, ‘Was it kosher? Are they beef? Are they pork?’

"So it gave us an opportunity to talk about their conviction and why they don’t eat pork and what that means, and it really opened up some great opportunities of dialogue and conversation – just really over cuisine – all of us sitting down and talking about what our beliefs are."

The Hotsenpillers won’t say which networks they’re pitching the reality show to. Ashley Williams, who has worked as a segment producer for ABC's "The Bachelor," filmed the pilot. In 30 minute episodes, the Hotsenpilles say, the program would showcase dinners held in the homes of people from neighborhoods across America.

They’ve also shot two international pilots in Ethiopia and India.

Because of changing U.S. demographics, American food is defined less by hot dogs and apple pie and more by the cuisines of a multitude of cultures.

As Phil Hotsenpiller notes, “There’s no atheist food."

“I have friends that are atheists,” he said. “I can dialogue with them – we don’t agree – but it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and talk to someone of a different belief or non-belief system if we’ve got a piece of food in our hand and a fork in our hand and we’re trying to break down some barriers and build some understanding.

“I’m not going to become a Muslim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t eat with a Muslim, respect a Muslim, dialogue with a Muslim, and try to understand their perspective,” he said.

The Hotsenpillers are well traveled. In December they were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they attended a dinner with representatives of more than two dozen embassies.

"As we sat next to each other filling our plates with one another’s cuisine – our plates were so beautiful – you could taste the culture through the basic food groups," Tammy Hotsenpiller said. "[Despite] the wars and prejudice and all kinds of issues [that] were going on in each of these people’s countries, cuisine was a way we could sit down and really bridge that.

"Most of us use the same basic ingredients in every culture – it’s just how we use the ingredients," she said.

"Just trying each other’s cuisine, not being afraid to try something new, will hopefully then open doors to conversation."

Hotsenpiller, who calls herself a “culture coach,” said, “Most people are intimidated by each other until you can sit down and really taste each other’s culture, through cuisine, conversation, costume, customs, so that’s really what the reality show is based on: merging into one another’s culture by sitting down and tasting humanity.”

In terms of their beliefs, Phil Hotsenpiller said, “We’re both of the Christian faith and we believe Christ is our savior and the Bible is our guide. At the same time we hold a really strong belief that we live in a world that we have to live together, and we want to find ways to respect people and honor people and the way they live their life and live with the freedom to choose and to thrive.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Christianity • Church • TV

soundoff (165 Responses)
  1. Mark

    New Passover youtube music video.
    Very insperational – must watch!

    April 13, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  2. MJM

    Culture Coach? Taste the Culture? Pullllleeezzzee! This is one reality show I'll pass on. Lame.

    February 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  3. Kristi Schwab

    Phil and Tammy sound like they really know what they are talking about and I would love to see this type of approach of bringing together all types of humanity, through the means of cuisine, on a reality show......what a great idea on so many levels!!!!!

    February 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  4. Rosalie Puleo

    What a great idea!!!!

    February 25, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  5. jen

    Love this. Awesome idea

    February 24, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  6. The Cryptojournalist

    I think when I retire from being a grifter, culture coach will be my next career


    February 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  7. Becky

    Having grown up in Africa, the child of missionary parents, and returned many times in my adult life to live and serve in several countries in Africa ... I can say that always food brings people together. Nothing is more gracious and humbling that to be offered a portion of food, be it a bowl of porridge or a feast fit for a king! I have sat in the smallest and filthiest of huts and been completely humbled by the offering of food given by a most gracious hostess who would not eat for days because of what they served me. I have been in some of the nicest restaurants in exotic places with food displayed for one meal which would feed a village for a month. Part of this "Taste of Humanity" is a way to help us get over those things which separate us. I believe we all need to be willing to lay aside our arrogance and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us to a deeper love and understanding of how much God loves each and every one of us on the face of the earth! If cuisine can be a bridge, then serve me up a plate!

    February 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  8. EM

    "we believe Christ is our savior" ........ yes but's it's spelled 'saviour'. English was invented in ENGLAND, not California, and that's how it's spelled in England.

    February 24, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Annon

      Really? You are worried about spelling? Spelling "Savior" or "Saviour" and has nothing to do with the meaning. Our Savior is the One who came down from glory– the Second Person of the Trinity–the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us, rose again, and intercedes as High Priest at the Right Hand of the Father. It does not matter how you spell Savior–what truly matters is that Jesus saves. Many people do not believe in the correct Jesus of the Bible, and that should be our concern as soul winners. There are many Jesuses out there but there is only one Biblical Jesus, found in the Bible–the one and true Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ must be lifted up–in every language. The name of Jesus is most important (Philippians 2:10). We read in Acts 4:12...

      "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved"?

      February 24, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  9. Marnee

    Fascinating, that the idea of sharing a meal between people of different faiths, getting to know each other, values, reasons for beliefs, the history, the personal stories of why their faith matters....and seeing the conversation of T.V. (which sounds very interesting to me) should provoke such unattractive comments is sad. The idea is about building bridges, understanding, and yes, sharing about faith.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • Reality

      Historical reviews and rational thinking will eliminate religions all together.

      It has begun: an example-

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

      February 24, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  10. Justina

    Americans don't even show respect to their elected presidents. Therefore, kids and foreigners have no reason to respect Americans. Respect is a piece of pie only in the sky in present secular democratic societies. Secularism is bound to lose all sense of respect because it ignores God as the Head. Without God, there is no reason for anyone to respect anything. A simplest logic and real phenomenon. The reason why so many post-christian Westerners turn into pathetic, meaningless worship of self. Pagans were even better than that.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  11. Justina

    They should aim a society which shows respect to God! A society that does not respect and honor God cannot respect or honor people. It will eventually destroy innocent human lives(such as unborn children and religious minorities) and bring strifes among people one way or another because of the shedding of innocent blood. No peace for murderers. American Christians must study the history of ancient Israel more because USA is repeating it.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  12. Blessed Geek

    I love soy dogs.

    It is very difficult to convince people to eat soy dogs. Even though soy dogs are ecologically cheaper and economically cheaper to produce, they are more expensive than meat dogs at the supermarket.

    Soy dogs are convenient because you can keep kosher eating a soy dog with cheese and drinking a tall glass of strawberry milk.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.